For 100 years, the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry has been one of the most storied and well-known regiments in the country. From unusual beginning — founded by the heir to a textile fortune, it was the last privately-raised regiment in the Commonwealth — the PPCLI has earned its reputation as "first in the field."
The regiment has been on the frontline of some of the fiercest battles in Canadian history.
Housed in bases in Edmonton and Shilo, Man., some 2,000 soldiers now make up the Pats.
Using letters, regiment documents and interviews with PPCLI soldiers, CBC News looks at some of the pivotal moments in the regiment’s history: the events, victories and tragedies that have shaped the regiment over the past century.
The son of a wealthy English family in Montreal, and heir to his father’s massive textile empire, Andrew Hamilton Gault’s fascination with the military began at a young age, when he spent long hours exploring the Canadian wilderness, and learning how to handle a firearm and ride horseback.
Hamilton "Hammie" Gault would get his first real experience with military life in 1901, when he signed on to fight with the Canadian military in South Africa.
By most accounts, Gault’s time in the Boer War was largely uneventful, but it did cement his love of military service.
After an unsuccessful attempt to join the British cavalry, he returned to Canada to marry and help with his father’s business — unaware that in a little over a decade, he would make his mark in the largest, and most costly, conflict the world had yet seen.
'A battalion apart'
When Britain declared war on Germany on Aug. 4, 1914, Canada was thrust into the conflict. And what the young nation lacked in military history, it made up for in enthusiasm.
Despite a tiny population, hundreds of thousands of Canadians volunteered for both combat and support roles at home and abroad.
Gault was eager to get involved, and feared that Canada would miss out on an opportunity to step onto the international stage. He wasted no time writing to Ottawa seeking approval to raise a private regiment.
By this time, Gault had considerable wealth. He offered to spend $100,000 — approximately $2 million in 2014 dollars — to recruit, outfit and train the regiment.
His wish was granted, and approval was also given to name the new regiment after the daughter of Canada’s governor general, the Duke of Connaught.
The 28-year-old Princess Patricia was a glamorous and popular royal whose fascination with Canada won many hearts on this side of the Atlantic.
Following just 10 days of recruitment, the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry numbered 1,098 soldiers.
From the beginning, the Princess Pats stood out from the other companies of soldiers being recruited at the outset of the war.
Instead of largely untrained volunteers, the first set of soldiers, "the Originals," had valuable combat experience — most had served with the British military. They were, in the words of the regiment’s official history, "prospectors, trappers, guides, cow-punchers, prize-fighters, farmers, professional and business men, above all old soldiers."
Even before entering battle, the regiment was different from other Canadian outfits. On arriving in England, the Pats didn’t train with their countrymen, and instead worked with British forces. One of the regiment’s commanders, Lt. Hugh Niven, wrote years after the war that Gault did not trust Sam Hughes, the Canadian militia minister, and did everything he could to keep the regiment out of the minister's control.
"We were Canadians, but we were different. We did not train with other Canadians in Canada or as a matter of fact did we train with any Canadians in England," Niven wrote.
"We were a battalion apart."